Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown

Ghetto Funk - The Boris Gardiner Happening
Collie Stuff - The Chosen Few
Slipping Into Darkness - Carl Bradney
Is It Because I'm Black? - Ken Boothe
Get Involved - Freddie McGregor
Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City - Al Brown
Mango Walk - In-Crowd
Ain't No Sunshine - Ken Boothe
Gypsy Woman - Milton Henry
Super Soul - Junior Soul
For The Love Of You - John Holt
Its A Shame - Alton Ellis
I'm Your Puppet - Jimmy London
Get Ready - Delroy Wilson
Darker Than Blue - Lloyd Charmers
Why Can't We Live Together - Tinga Stewart
Baltimore - The Tamlins
Hotter Reggae Music - Welton Irie
 
When Arthur Conley asked the immortal question 'do you like good music, that sweet soul music'. maybe he didn't exactly have the island of Jamaica in mind; nevertheless, the answer from that quarter was a loud and clear 'yes'. The cultural relationship between the USA and Jamaica had been in place long before, from Jazz through R&B, and on into the age of Soul. A whole generation of singers, players and MCs had grown up in thrall to the sounds of 1960s black America; indeed, in the 1950s Jamaican dancehall music itself had evolved by adapting shuffle-based R&B and Boogie, with deejays like Count Machuki freely borrowing slang & lyrics from Harlem journalist Dan Burley's 'Jive' magazine, using that language to introduce and pep up their selections.

The link continued through the early 1960s, with singers and vocal groups - Ken Boothe, Slim Smith & The Techniques, the Melodians, Roy Shirley - all engaging in impromptu cutting contests in ghetto locations like Back O Wall, in which the material they sang was drawn from the catalogues of such as the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, and the ever-present Impressions. When 'Soul' replace 'R&B' in the affections of black American listeners, so Rock Steady and later, Reggae, developed as Jamaican music kept pace with innovations on the US mainland.

Through the 1960s, as US Soul began increasingly to reflect the social concerns and political aspirations of the black working class, the same phenomenon began to register in Jamaican music. By the end of the 1960s, Jamaica could boast the presence of several singers who equalled in emotional intensity their US cousins, among them such as Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, John Holt and Delroy Wilson, as well as groups like the Techniques with Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and others. Similarly, instrumentalists like the Meters, Booker T & The MGs and James Brown's band also had their influence on the development of Reggae.

This compilation celebrates that cultural exchange during the period 1973-1980, emphasising the fact that roots music doesn't have to be overtly Rasta inspired for the message to get across; indeed several of the songs here proved to be as suitable for Jamaican conditions as they were in the USA.

Ghetto Funk - The Boris Gardiner Happening feat. Leslie Butler
This instrumental is more in the way of a homage to Hammond maestros Jimmy Smith et al, rather than a direct cover version. It was first released as the b-side to Boris' original vocal piece 'Every Nigger Is A Star', from the movie featuring Calvin Lockhart, and featured on the ultra-rare soundtrack LP. Big Youth's version of Boris' song is on 'Natty Universal Dread' (BAFCD 034). Here organist Leslie Butler shows he's no stranger to the B-3 cookbook, jamming faultlessly while the rhythm section - Billy Johnson (guitar), Larry McDonald (conga), Alvin Haughton (percussion) - bubbles under him, anchored by Boris' ferocious bass line.

Collie Stuff - The Chosen Few
The Chosen Few - Noel Brown, Busty Brown and Franklyn Spence - always had a predilection towards 'Soul' - see for example their version of 'Don't Break Your Promise'. Here they version Kool & the Gang's 'Funky Stuff'; they also did it as 'Reggae Stuff', but this herb version is best. The original appeared on Kool's excellent 'Jungle Boogie' set in 1973.

Slipping Into Darkness - Carl Bradney
War's subtle warning against ghetto violence covered by the (unknown) Carl Bradney; it appeared on Scratch's Orchid label in 1975, with the b-side a cover of the Chi-Lites 'Oh Girl'. Could that be the Barratt brothers on drum and bass?

Is It Because I'm Black - Ken Boothe
Syl Johnson's thoughtful song - released in 1968 on Chicago label TwiNight - here gets a definitive reading by Ken Boothe. This version is the original Jamaican 45 mix, without the horn overdubs added later for the UK LP version.

Get Involved - Freddie McGregor
The gifted Memphian writer/singer George 'Soule' Jackson's plea for voter registration (cut for the Fame label in 1973) evidently struck a chord with Freddie McGregor who recut it with Soul syndicate for producer Alphonso Bailey's 'Super Champ' imprint in 1974. Bailey produced a handful of records in the mid-seventies, including sides on Fay Bennett and Milton Henry, before withdrawing from the music business. Freddie's vocal ranks alongside his handling of George Benson's 'Love Ballad', Thom Bell & Linda Creed's 'Sweet Child' and Norman Connors' 'You Are My Starship' (retitled as 'Natural Collie').

Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City - Al Brown
Al Brown (b.1947) had recorded a few sides for Studio One - 'Ain't Got No Soul', 'No Soul Today' - as the 1960s turned into the 1970s. By 1973 he was fronting Skin, Flesh & Bones at Dickie Wong's Tit For Tat club on Red Hills Road, Kingston. In April 1974 he enjoyed his biggest hit with the group, a cover of Al Green's 'Here I Am Baby', the success of which enabled him to tour the UK with the group. Al was a cover version specialist; following his hit he scored again with a cover of Neil Diamond's 'Stones'. Here, backed again by Skin Flesh & Bones he delivers a fine version of the 1974 Bobby Bland hit 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' from the veteran bluesman's 'Dreamer' LP.

Mango Walk - In-Crowd
A funky version of a tune also done by Mandrill, complete with excellent organ, clavinet and wah-wah guitar. Bullwhackies Allstars revived the tune in the mid-1980s. In-Crowd went on to greater success when they added vocalist/drummer Fil Callender for tunes like 'His Majesty Is Coming', 'Back A Yard', 'Ethiopia' - all serious roots anthems, and the proto-lovers rock 'Baby My Love'.

Ain't No Sunshine -Ken Boothe
In the hands of Bill Withers, this song - produced by Booker T and originally released as the b-side to Withers' 'Harlem' on US independent Sussex before appearing on the singer/songwriter's debut LP 'Just As I Am' in 1971 - received an understated, meditative treatment. Ken Boothe's version is more upfront, with Boothe in familiar crying mode, and was released as a 45 on producer Lloyd Charmers' 'Splash' label, before surfacing on Boothe's own 'Black Gold & Green' set in 1973.

Gypsy Woman - Milton Henry
Although others have essayed this impressions chestnut - it had been versioned by Derrick Morgan in the mid-1960s, and the Mighty Diamonds also cut a version for Joe Gibbs in 1977 - this cut is the deepest Yard version. Milton Henry had been a member of the Leaders with Prince Alla, before cutting solo discs for Lee Perry (as King Medious). He produced the rhythm - played by Eric 'Fish' Clarke (drums), Errol 'Flabba' Holt (bass) and Vin Gordon (trombone). The distinctive rhythm guitar is by Milton himself, as are the backing vocals.

Super Soul (aka Give Me Your Love) - Junior Soul (aka Junior Murvin)
produced and arranged by the multi-talented Clive 'Azul' Hunt, this is Junior Murvin before 'Police & Thieves'. The song was originally written and performed by the late lamented Curtis Mayfield for inclusion on the 'Superfly' soundtrack album, where it played memorably under the slow-motion bath scene. Hunt contributes the flute obligato; the rhythm was also used for the late I-Roy's toast that took the film title as its own, available on our I-Roy set 'Don't Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff' (BAFCD 016), and in extended form on the Blood & Fire sampler '2 Heavyweight' (BAFCD 017).

For The Love Of You - John Holt
A beautiful reading of the Isley Brothers song (released by them in October 1975, and also included on their 'Heat Is On' album) from a definitive Jamaican stylist. Produced at Randy's Studio 17 by Clive Chin, with backing by In-Crowd, this is a masterful interpretation and the epitome of Jamaican Soul. Shortly after this John Holt enjoyed a run of success at Channel One with tracks like 'Up Park Camp', but this track has never been reissued until now.

It's A Shame - Alton Ellis
First done by the (Detroit) Spinners at Motown, this song, written by Stevie Wonder, his then-girlfriend Syreeta Wright and L. Garrett, proved an ideal vehicle for the man often styled the 'Godfather' of Jamaican Soul, Alton Ellis. The Spinners catalogue also provided two more songs popular in Jamaica, their 1968 VIP release 'Message From A Black Man' and 'I'll Be Around', a hit in Jamaica for Otis Gayle at Studio One (see the Soul Jazz compilation 'Studio One Soul').

I'm your Puppet -Jimmy London
A Soul and Pop hit in 1966 for James & Bobby Purify, this is another classic written by the Muscle Shoals team of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. Jamaican producer Lloyd Campbell utilised Skin Flesh & Bones for the rhythm track, laid at Channel one studio and showcasing the fragile vocals of former Inspiration Jimmy London. From here it would be a short step to the 'rockers' sound developed by drummer Sly Dunbar with his subsequent band the Revolutionaries, also at Channel One. Delroy Wilson recut the song for Jo Jo Hookim a few months after, but this is the better interpretation.

Get Ready - Delroy Wilson
First issued by Motown legends the Temptations in February 1966, this features another Jamaican Soul giant, the late great Delroy Wilson. This version - Delroy's second rendition of the song - released on a Channel One 12" single around the same time as another Jamaican version by Gregory Isaacs, available on 'Mr Isaacs' (BAFCD 035). It maintains the upbeat premise of the original before sliding into an extended dub portion. Musical backing is by the Revolutionaries.

Darker Than Blue - Lloyd Charmers
This song - first heard on Curtis Mayfield's debut solo set 'Curtis' in 1970 - proved a brilliant vehicle for producer Lloyd Charmers' persuasive falsetto. In fact Lloyd sings all the backing vocals, and plays the haunting melodica part as well; the rhythm was played by Third World and was recorded in early 1975, just before that group signed ti Island Recods.

Why Can't We Live Together - Tinga Stewart
The original - by singer/organist Timmy Thomas - was a monster US hit for the Florida-based TK Records in 1974, and featured Thomas's singing over a sparse organ/drum machine backing track. 'Tinga' Stewart recut the song in 1977 at Channel One for sound system operator Virgo, with backing by the Revolutionaries, and an excellent horn arrangement by the late I-Roy.

Baltimore - The Tamlins
Randy Newman's song made its first appearance on the writer's 'Little Criminals' album in 1977, but the Nina Simone version - cut for Creed Taylor's CTI label in 1978 - took it to clubs and dancehalls worldwide. In 1979, Sly & Robbie did their version with the Tamlins (Junior Moore, Derrick Lara, Carlton Smith); it was arguably the Tamlins' biggest hit, although they continue their (underrated) career to this day. It features Sly & Robbie's then new style, as they told the authors of 'Reggae Routes': 'We did like a slowed down Motown/Stax kind of beat, but still keeping the backbeat, happening on the guitar chord. That shook things up down in Jamaica a bit...'

Hotter Reggae Music - Welton Irie
Archetypal 'dancehall' deejay Welton Irie adds his argument to the preceding track, incorporating into his rap the lyrical style then current on US rap records by such as the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five et al. The rhythm was revived in the mid-1990s by Star Trail producer Richard Bell, who used it on sides by Anthony B and others.
 
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